Yesterday it was broken by Ian Morrison of the Scotland on Sunday that there was to be a reshuffle of positions with Glasgow Warriors coach Sean Lineen taking up a newly created position within the SRU and coaching the Scotland U20s while Scotland’s beleaguered attack coach, Gregor Townsend, would move in to become Glasgow Warriors head coach.
This sent shock waves through Scottish rugby. It is not the first time those within the game have been blindsided by stories of enforced moves, but this news was sudden. Communication has been frantic since then. Everyone knows the timing was bad.
Before this, a few months ago, it was made public that Scotland defence coach Graham Steadman was to be released after the 6 Nations and that Townsend’s deal was due to be up, too. With this news out Andy Robinson was forced to announce that someone new was to come in as defence coach alongside the incumbent Scott Johnson.
Yesterday it came out that Lineen was informed he would be moved and now has to become the first ever ‘head of player acquisitions’ within the SRU. He has made no secret that the news was simply dropped on him.
It is tough for Lineen because he has family settled in Scotland and is contracted to the SRU. When Rob Moffat was bumped out at Edinburgh he was offered a ‘new’ role which he duly turned down and walked away. Lineen isn’t the kind of guy to do that, clearly, and his stoic statement said a lot about his integrity.
“A new opportunity has arisen which I am very excited about. I am very passionate about Scottish rugby and having been involved in the professional arena both with Scotland and with Glasgow Warriors for nearly a decade, I know it’s a continual challenge to stay at the top table.
“The challenge of identifying and developing talent to take Scottish rugby forward is one that massively appeals to me. Having seen how players like Richie Gray, Duncan Weir and Stuart Hogg have exploded onto the scene from the Warriors gives myself and the other coaches and staff at the club a great deal of satisfaction and pride as this is a major part of our job.
“I leave Glasgow Warriors with a heavy heart as it has been a big part of my life, but know that the squad put together for next season is the strongest yet and I am handing over the reins with the club in a very healthy state.”
It must feel bizarre handing over a project he has overseen for some time. Townsend now has a lot to do. He should certainly be given every opportunity to prove himself, but many are left scratching their heads wondering why Lineen has been shunted sideways and Townsend effectively promoted.
Of course in terms of youth development having Sean Lineen who has a good international playing record and has coached in the Heineken Cup and the Pro12, making one play-off and bearing down on another, in charge of the U20s and the development of project players can only be good. A lot of kids will benefit from his regular input.
However, what this says about the scenario is that decisions are made hurriedly and then the people involved are informed after.
Mark Dodson is said to be rather embarrassed by the whole affair. A press conference went ahead today for the assembled journalists and some tried to get to the bottom of things. However, later in the day it is alleged that Lineen had a more important discussion as he met his entire staff. Everything was apparently talked over. By some accounts he looked rather shocked and understandably tried to put a brave face on it. I was not there but according to sources things had an air of the apologetic about them.
Despite there being reports that some of the players are perturbed about the situation there has been a concerted effort to be positive about Townsend’s appointment. There has to be. This being said, though, it must also be pointed out that Lineen is not the only person being moved aside. Gary Mercer, Glasgow’s robust defence coach who must take many plaudits for how Glasgow have played this season, is facing a decision over a new role. This is the case because Matt Taylor of the Queensland Reds is to be Scotland’s new defence coach as well as doing work with the Warriors.
Hopefully Mercer is accommodated within the SRU, and Lineen will understandably feel it necessary to apologise to his colleague, but it must be said that at this point fans will want assurances that the turmoil is to stop soon. Whilst Scotland are losing it cannot help that there is uncertainty behind the scenes as well.
Glasgow are trying to ensure they stay in the race for the Pro12 playoffs.
Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.